Berks

Volunteer steals nearly $100,000 from Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad, police say

Treasurer James Krause charged with theft, related offenses

Volunteer steals nearly $100K from scenic railroad, police say

ALBANY TWP., Pa. - The wheels of justice are turning for a longtime volunteer of the Wanamaker, Kempton and Southern Railroad.

It's known as Berks County's hidden gem, but the railroad has been derailed by the appointed treasurer, said officials.   

James Krause, 43, of Schnecksville, Lehigh County, is accused of stealing nearly $100,000 in a year's time.

"We're all there for one love and to find out that trust has been destroyed and violated is a real shame," said Oliver Blatt, president of Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Railroad Inc., who added the accounts just weren't adding up.

According to court documents, Krause stole $36,471.41 from the company's checking and savings accounts between January and December 2013. They also state he bought $22,229.83 in fraudulent purchases from Home Depot and Lowe's on the business' account, and took $36,837.00 in ticket sales.

"It was always weird because he was like, 'Oh, money is no object. No problem, no problem,' so he talked about money a lot," said Kyra Hendricks, who worked with Krause organizing events at the railroad.

The nonprofit just celebrated 50 years in business in 2013. It's run entirely by volunteers and offers scenic train rides to the public.

"It was really surprising. We've been trying to get in touch with him for a couple of months and he hasn't responded," said Arian Hungasai, who owns Wanamakers General Store at the end of the tracks.

Krause didn't answer the door at his house on Tuesday. Court records show he also pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in 1999. Blatt said he had no idea, but Krause is no longer a volunteer.

Now, officials are trying to get the gem back on the right track.

"The railroad is still going to be there. We're still going to be operating trains and we're going to recover from this," said Blatt.    

Blatt said new procedures have been put in place for their accounting and the hiring of volunteers to help prevent this from happening again. He said Krause's alleged actions are not what the railroad stands for, and he hopes people will continue to ride.

Krause was arraigned Monday on theft and related charges, according to court records.


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